File Under: Software & Tools

Prism Update Makes Creating Desktop Apps as Simple as Installing a Firefox Add-on

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Mozilla Labs has cranked out an updated version of Prism, the company’s platform for integrating web apps into your desktop. Prism allows you to run web applications (like Gmail or Facebook, for example) in a single browser window, separate from your main Firefox application.

While the standalone version of Prism has been updated to support some nice new options like giving each web app in its own profile so they don’t interfere with each other, the bigger news is the release of a new Prism Firefox extension by the name of Refractor.

Thanks to Refractor, using Prism in now a simple as installing a Firefox add-on.

The new Refractor extension means that you can now split a web application off to Prism from within Firefox — without ever needing to install and manage a standalone version of the Prism application. Just install the extension, browse to a web app, then select Tools > Convert Website to Application and you’re done.

The advantage of cordoning off web apps with Prism is that you avoid losing data from browser crashes and, more importantly, you can take advantage of some features that are typically only available in desktop programs.

The Refractor extension gives Prism a significant advantage over competing platforms like Adobe’s AIR, which requires a separate download just to get the framework installed.

The new plugin only works with the Firefox 3 betas and is not without its quirks — I couldn’t get the custom icon to show up in my tab-switching window, which made it impossible to distinguish Firefox from my standalone Gmail Prism app. There also doesn’t seem to be an easy way to add extensions to standalone apps, which Prism definitely needs to become a viable alternative to the browser.

Keep in mind of course that Prism and Refractor are both Mozilla Labs projects which means they’re still in the experimental stage and aren’t meant for prime time. Still, despite a few quirks, if you’re looking for a way to get a more desktop-like experience from web apps, Prism just might be the answer.

[via Mozilla Links]

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